Skepticism

Why People Believe a Doctor who Says Witches Cause Impotence

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Transcript:

Yesterday I talked about how easy it is to get people to believe pseudoscience: even if you are a magician who tells someone you’re doing a magic trick, they will believe you when you tell them you’re using pseudoscientific tactics to read their mind. Thank god back in 1983 David Copperfield didn’t tell everyone that he made the Statue of Liberty disappear by using a nanotech invisibility cloak or it’s possible America would be even stupider today. Can you imagine?

The researchers behind that study suggested that their findings can have an impact on the spread of misinformation, which reminded me of this viral video making the rounds: a “press conference” held by “America’s Frontline Doctors,” an organization about as aptly named as Greenland. They’re not on the front lines of anything, and I’m pretty sure some of them aren’t doctors, or if they are I’m not sure they’re gonna be for long. I will give them this: they do appear to be in America at the moment.

The good news first: this video was taken down pretty quickly from Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Good for those platforms! I mean yes the president did already tweet about it, and his idiot son…no, the other one…posted the video but he also got suspended for it, so altogether this one is a win for social media networks. The truth managed to get its shoes on while the lie had only managed to make it to the next town over. Okay, the next country over.

But still, the video is out there and conservatives love it. It features a few “doctors,” and we know this because they’re wearing lab coats. The one that was clearly the shining star of the video (intentional or not) was Dr. Stella Immanuel. Immanuel is a pediatrician based in Texas who took her time at the dais to announce that face masks don’t work to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the “cure” for the virus is hydroxychloroquine, zinc and Zithromax, which studies have shown to do more harm than good in patients and which the FDA does not authorize for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Let’s go through some of the beliefs that Immanuel didn’t get to mention in her stirring speech at the press conference. You’ve probably heard about this by now but I like to be thorough for future anthropologists:

She thinks endometriosis, infertility and other problems with the reproductive system are caused by witches and demons that have sex with you while you’re asleep

She thinks DNA from space aliens is in prescription drugs (not sure if that includes Zithromax)

She thinks scientists are trying to make a vaccine to stop you from being religious

She thinks Hannah Montana is a gateway that leads children to evil

She thinks lizards control the world

And finally she thinks children should be whipped, which the Daily Beast finds unusual for a pediatrician, suggesting they do not find it unusual for a pediatrician to think witches have sex with you when you’re asleep.

And okay, yes, all of that is batshit insane. No one with a medical license should believe those things, let alone preach to those things to the congregation of the church they founded next door to their clinic. Yeah. Apparently Immanuel believes people are trying to take her medical license, and while I hope that’s true I have to keep in mind that she also believes medicine is made from space aliens so who knows!

So yes all of that is nuts and this woman should not have a medical license and she absolutely should not have a microphone and it is telling that she is a very prominent part of “America’s Frontline Doctors.” But it’s worth remembering that there are other doctors there who aren’t nearly as insane: Dr. Robert C. Hamilton is just a normal-seeming grandpa pediatrician in Santa Monica with nothing on social media about lizard people or sex wizards. We know he’s obviously a giant moron because he’s standing on a stage with a bunch of crackpots trying to convince people to stop wearing masks and start taking unproven drugs during a pandemic, but until now nothing in his background suggested he was that fucked up.

Because the whole time we’re laughing at Immanuel — and please, laugh about her; she’s awful and the world is awful and sometimes all you can do is laugh — but the entire time, other crackpots are watching this and realizing they just need to leave the lizard people doctor off the stage and they have a chance at legitimacy. Because as a lot of research shows, including the study I talked about yesterday, all you need is to say something with confidence while performing some sleight of hand and a lot of people are going to believe you.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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4 Comments

  1. Unfortunately the lie made its way right around the world many times because they kept retweeting it.

    You know it wasn’t too long ago when medical ethics strictly forbade doctors from engaging in any advertising at all, except for well defined exceptions such as public health officials or whoever made the first heart transplant.

    This was how we could tell a real doctor from a quack.

    You were allowed to have a brass plate with letters like an inch high.
    Standards dropped in the late 80s iirc and we began to see clinics with huge neon signs so the whole thing became a free for all.

    If anybody wants to challenge the lie that there is no science behind social distancing and mask use, here is a huge meta study:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673620311429

    It’s a hard read though, the results are in terms of risk ratios rather than absolute probabilities and you are better off just looking at the raw data.

    Good luck convincing the average magat who can’t even handle the simplest percentage calculation – they always divide deaths by the whole population, add a few extra zeros, then put % at the end without multiplying by 100.

    That’s how they get a 99.999999 % “recovery rate”.

    That said, the idea of a nice witch who wants to have sex has some merit.
    Bring on the demon semen!!

  2. Dr. Stella Immanuel. Immanuel is a pediatrician ….

    Q: What do you call the med student who graduates at the bottom of their med school class?

    A: Doctor

    1. Give her a break, she was educated in Nigeria, a country rife with superstition and third world levels of grinding poverty and inequality.

      Then she came to….. wait…

  3. Regarding HCQ, some of the lesser known side effects are:

    Agitation
    Mania
    Hallucinations
    Psychosis
    Paranoia

    -all of which are prevalent in your average magat! Coincidence? lmfao

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